August 11, 2013

Oregon agency recommends site certification for 399-MW Saddle Butte wind farm

Ore. agency recommends site certification for 399-MW Saddle Butte wind farm | By Michael Copley | SNL | August 09, 2013 |

The Oregon Department of Energy on Aug. 9 recommended state regulators approve Saddle Butte Wind LLC’s application for a site certificate to build a 399-MW wind farm on more than 13,000 acres of private land in Morrow and Gilliam counties.

Saddle Butte Wind, a subsidiary of Columbia Wind LLC, in July 2012 proposed building and operating the Saddle Butte wind park about 20 miles south of the Columbia River. The wind farm, which would feature up to 133 wind turbines scattered across 13,555 acres, would use an existing transmission corridor and connect to 500-kV transmission lines at the existing Bonneville Power Administration Slatt Substation, according to the state DOE.

The state DOE’s Aug. 9 recommendation constitutes a draft proposed order, which will be followed by a public hearing Sept. 9. Ultimately, the state’s Energy Facility Siting Council will decide whether to issue a site certificate.

Saddle Butte Wind proposed to start construction within five years of receiving a site certificate and to finish within seven years. A site certificate is “not the final step in facility development,” the applicant said. Rather, it often is just the beginning of a manufacturing process that has long built-in lead times. Additionally, the company said, developers have to plan against the forecast market demand for electricity and allow a sufficient window of time in order to match commercial operation with market conditions.

The state DOE responded that a three-year deadline to begin construction and a six-year window to finish construction “is reasonable.” “Although the department understands the complex economic and market factors that affect the decision of when (or even if) to build an energy facility, the applicant’s need for flexibility to respond to market conditions must be balanced against the requirement that the council apply current rules and regulations in its evaluation of an application for a site certificate,” the department said.

The Saddle Butte site is within 10 miles of 15 approved or proposed wind energy facilities. Parts of the site’s transmission corridor overlap the Shepherds Flat North, Shepherds Flat Central and Shepherds Flat South sites. After submitting a handful of transmission routes for consideration, Saddle Butte Wind settled on “Option S,” a 21-mile route that would place 230-kV transmission lines on existing power poles for 15.1 miles, “making it the most environmentally benign of the options,” the state DOE said.

Included in the applicant’s filing is a March 15 letter from Citigroup Global Markets Inc., stating that Saddle Butte Wind, as an affiliate of Caithness Equities Corp., has “sufficient available letter of credit capacity” to support a letter of credit in the amount of $16 million. The letter does not constitute a firm commitment from Citigroup to issue the letter of credit, the state DOE said, but is “evidence of a reasonable likelihood that the applicant could obtain the necessary financial assurance.”

Columbia Wind is a subsidiary of Caithness Energy LLC.

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